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Must see locations, events and places to travel and enjoy in Denmark.
Must see locations, events and places to travel and enjoy in Denmark.
If you’re planning a visit to the Danish capital, be sure not to miss these five historic castles and palaces that celebrate the royal history of the nation
Beneath the opulent Christiansborg Palace, home of the Danish parliament, is a mysterious world. These are the ruins of the 12th-century castle of Bishop Absalon. Visitors can tour not only the splendour of Christiansborg Palace, but also the evocative remains of the ruined castle.
This stunning 17th-century castle takes travellers back in time to meet the waxworks of those who once called its halls their home. Here you can relive some of their most scandalous episodes. However, whatever you do, don’t miss the Danish crown jewels, which are sure to take your breath away.
Set on an island in its own lake, the 17th-century Frederiksborg Castle was rebuilt after a catastrophic fire in the 19th century. Now it houses the Museum of National History and one of the most beautiful royal gardens you will ever have the chance to explore.
Fredensborg Palace is still used as a residence by the Danish royal family. This Baroque masterpiece is particularly famed for its extensive and extravagant gardens, many of which are still tended and enjoyed by members of the royal family themselves.
The residence of the Danish royal family welcomes visitors for guided tours around its awe-inspiring rococo interiors. Be sure to watch the traditional changing of the Royal Guard before you tour all four of the different Danish palaces that make up Amalienborg.
Who knows exactly why Roskilde became the biggest North European culture and music festival. We do know that being a completely not-for-profit event certainly helps. All the proceeds of the festival go towards charitable initiatives in support of children and young people. The initiatives are entirely independent and are not limited to Europe. This said, though, it has something to do with rock and roll.
Since 1971 in this case. From the early days of live bands on one stage, the festival has evolved to include different arts and culture-themed camps, like the Street Camp which features some of the world’s best skaters and games of street soccer and volleyball; the Rising City, which showcases up-and-coming artistic and musical talent; and the Graffiti Zone, a huge area filled with graffiti, murals, and other art installations.
Nine stages with over 180 international and local acts. It’s a star-studded line-up that includes artists of the moment like Tame Impala and Wiz Khalifa, and musical legends like Neil Young and the Red Hot Chili Peppers.
When famed Danish chef, Rene Redzepi (of Noma note), pulled the symposium together for the first time in 2011, we imagine he was hoping that everyone would take his efforts seriously. And they did: in the short time that the symposium has been running it has garnered a reputation as ‘the Food World’s G-20’.
The philosophy behind MAD is ‘to expand knowledge of food to make every meal a better meal… Good cooking and a healthy environment can and should go hand-in-hand’. So yes, there’s a healthy contingent of eager chefs, but the symposium draws in many others from the food industry, including farmers, food journalists, suppliers and food-service professionals.
The cast of guest speakers reads like a who’s who of the international restaurant world. Think David Chang, Albert Adria, Alain Ducasse, to name just a few – so you would be hard-pressed to come away from the festival without a mind packed with new culinary ideas.
I swallow a slab of salty liquorice at Karamelleriet, an old-fashioned sweet shop, and wince. “That’s because you’ve got a ‘small normal’,” the shopkeeper remarks — a savage, if unusual, indictment of my palate. “But your taste buds can change,” he adds quickly. “You may learn to like it.” Chastened, I’m determined to expand the parameters of what I deem tasty. Fortunately, I’m in the right place. Copenhagen isn’t a city for cautious, cagey diners. Across the Danish capital, chefs, brewers and distillers are pushing the boundaries and st retching the definition of normal.
I start at 108, a new Nordic restaurant dubbed ‘Noma’s little brother’ when it opened this summer. Head chef Kristian Baumann shows me round the kitchen and dining room before taking me to the cluster of shipping containers that house Noma and 108’s so-called fermentation labs: seven climate-controlled rooms containing buckets of fermenting fruit, vegetables, fish and meat. Inside the first room, the air is humid and tangy. Shelves groan under the weight of large plastic tubs. Scrawled labels indicate the contents, which restaurant is responsible for them, and the date they began fermenting.
“This is where we make miso,” Baumann says, referring to the Japanese condiment typically produced using fermented soybeans. Not here, though: I spot miso made with mushrooms, chickpeas, pumpkin seeds and grasshoppers. A not her room contains varieties of vinegar — kelp, mushroom, rose, celery — and the sauna-like 60C room houses the more hardcore foodstuffs: fermented squid, beef and cabbage. Sensing my bewilderment, Baumann tells me to see ingredients as letters of the alphabet. “It’s up to the chef to arrange them into words,” he explains. “Consider elder flower: we can salt it, pickle it, make a syrup or oil out of it or even ferment it.” My dinner later that evening showcases this philosophy. Cured mackerel gleams with celery vinegar; a selection of pickles (elderberry capers, nasturtium, rosehip) pep up a delicious lamb tartare; grilled monkfish glimmers with a mushroom-miso lacquer.
The next day, I discover another kind of fermentation at Brus, a brewpub launched by Tobias Emil Jensen and Tore Gynther, founders of microbrewery To 01. I arrive to find Jensen making a Gose — a traditional German beer with a sour, salty taste produced by adding bacteria to the wort (the liquid extracted during the mashing process of brewing). Sacks of grain are dunked into a kettle of wort and left to steep for 24 hours at 40C, Jensen explains. Naturally occurring bacteria in the grain will convert the sugars in the wort into lactic acid, giving the Gose its distinctive sour flavour. “I always describe a beer by its base parameters: colour, bitterness and alcohol — but that’s so simplified,” Jensen says. The pair use exotic ingredients, such as tropical fruit and coffee, and enjoy creating a fusion of flavours. “If I combine raspberry’ and strawberry, it leads to something bigger,” Jensen explains. “One plus one equals three.”
I hear something similar when I visit Henrik Brinks, master distillerat Copenhagen Distillery. He produces gin, aquavit and schnapps, all of which are made by taking a neutral spirit derived from an agricultural product and giving it the dominant flavour of one or more botanicals. “If that dominant flavour is juniper, it’ll be gin,” Brinks explains. “If it’s either dill or caraway, it’ll be aquavit.” Everything else is schnapps, including the Christmas spirit he’s making when I visit the distillery. I peer into a bucket containing a murky mishmash of botanicals — hand-peeled oranges, juniper, long peppers, prunes and cardamom — which are left to macerate in alcohol for five days. Rum or whiskey producers can mask the inferiority oft heir spirit by maturing it in a cask. This isn’t the case with schnapps. “You’re completely naked when you distil schnapps,” Brinks says. “It’s all about balance and pairing different botanicals.”
I dip my finger in to the cool, clear liquidas it begins to trickle out of the still. It tingles my tongue and warms my chest — the perfect balance of sweetness and spice, fire and ice. Schnapps is best enjoyed alongside smorrebrod (buttered bread, typically topped with meats, fish, spreads or cheese), so Brinks sends me to Restaurant Palasgade, which serves this iconic Danish dish for lunch. Karina Pedersen, who leads the restaurant’s lunchtime kitchen, tells me smorrebrod’s reputation had taken a battering in recent years, due to many tourist traps using store-bought products — but eateries like Restaurant Palaegadeare now leading a return to the use of high-quality, homemade ingredients.
I spend the day in Restaurant Palsegade’s kitchen and try plating a simple dish of smorrebrod, beginning by laying two fillets of plaice on a slice of butte red bread. “Tails pointing a way from the customer,” Pedersen suggests. Having squeezed too little mayonnaise on the fillets, I misalign six shrimps. “Tails pointing in the same direction,” she chides — and then sends me packing before I can do any mote damage.
A pedal-push away, I find a very different take on smorrebrod. At Bror, a split-level restaurant in the Latin Quarter, former Noma sous-chefs Victor Wagman and Sam Nutter specialise in using unusual animal parts, such as the head, skin, penis and testicles. “With a little bit of work and playfulness, you can achieve results that people actually consider delicious,” Wagman says with a wink. Bull’s testicles are one of Bror’s standout snacks. Breaded and deep-fried, they have the ooze and crunch of a chicken nugget. The latest addition to the menu is cow’s uterus, which the chefs confit, glaze in a pan and serve on crisprye bread. I wash it down with beer and schnapps — and consider having seconds. Who’s got a ‘small normal’ now?
Hay House – Mette and Rolf Hay, the team behind this fabulous interiors store, have made it their raison d’etre to offer high-quality design at (almost) affordable prices. Their Copenhagen store sells its own line of furniture and textiles, plus works of other innovative Danish designers. Easy-to-pack souvenirs include notebooks and ceramic cups.
Illums Bolighus – A venerable temple to design dating back to 1925, this multi – level department store is dedicated to big Danish and international names. Tempting goods include fashion, jewellery, silverware and glassware, and there’s no shortage of Danish furniture, textiles and attractive office accessories.
Normann – In a converted cinema in Osterbro, sprawling Normann seduces shoppers (and wallets) with its eye-candy designer goods, from statement bowls, glassware and tea strainers, to furniture, lighting, cushions and more. If it’s time to give your life a Scandi makeover, this is the place to do it. Best of all, the shop ships worldwide.
Design Museum – A must for fans of the applied arts and industrial design, this fairly extensive collection includes Danish silver, textiles and porcelain, as well as iconic design pieces by modem innovators such as Kaare Klint, Poul Henningsen and Arne Jacobsen. The museum shop is one of the city’s best.
Det Kongelige Bibliotek – The national library comes in two parts: a 19th-century red-brick building and the head-turning ‘Black Diamond’ extension, the latter a leaning parallelogram of sleek black granite and smoke-coloured glass. From the harbour-fronting atrium, an escalator leads up to a ceiling mural by celebrated Danish artist Per Kirkeby. The library hosts fascinating art and history exhibitions, and a decent cafe.
Christiania – Setup by squatters in 1971, the Freetown Christiania commune has drawn nonconformists from across the globe. Beyond its graffiti -strewn barrack buildings and the infamous ‘ Pusher Street’, you’ll find a treasure trove of small, imaginative abodes built by hand using salvaged materials. Many of these intriguing creations are by the old city moat on the district’s eastern side. Keep an eye out for converted greenhouses, wooden caravans and a home made entirely of window frames.
Tivoli Gardens – The city’s veteran amusement park is the world’s second oldest (1843) and one that inspired both Walt Disney and Hans Christian Andersen with its dreamscape of rides, exotic pavilions and Willy Wonka-esque architecture. The park is petite by today’s standards, but its Arabian Nights persona makes it a fascinating space.
Rundetarn – Haul yourself up the spiral ramp of the 35m-high, redbrick ‘Round Tower’ and you’ll be following in the footsteps of such luminaries as Christian IV, who built it in 1642 as an observatory (it still functions as one today). You’ll also be retracing the hoof steps of Russian tsar Peter the Great’s horse.
CASUAL BITES – As Noma prepares to close its doors, the search for the next Nordic culinary hit has intensified. Sweden and Finland are vying for attention, but it’s back in Denmark and the city of Aarhus that one of the most hotly tipped scenes can be found. Inspired by London’s Borough Market, the Aarhus Street Food hub is set in shipping containers inside a former bus garage. Grab a seat at a long table and feast on Vietnamese sandwiches from the Banh Mi Bandits, crepes from The French Corner and parcels of good old fish and chips.
There are also smarter joints and stalls selling caviar and truffles at the Central Food Market. Make for the outpost of much-loved Aarhus coffee shop La Cabra for killer cortados and home-baked sourdough bread.
SMARTEN UP – For a more formal supper, the one-Michelin-starred Substans and no-menu Haervaerk both serve forward-thinking, farm-to-table food. At Substans, a pared-back aesthetic – wooden tables, light interiors and a living wall – reflects the no-fuss attitude. Here, dishes such as rye-and-rabbit ravioli or rosemary ice cream take centre stage. At industrial-chic Hservaerk, menus are based on what’s been picked that day; the moreish pumpkin profiteroles are excellent when paired with a glass of natural wine.
CRAFTY QUAFFS – Breathing new life into the city’s bar culture is fresh-on-the-scene cocktail lab Gedulgt (an old Danish word for ‘secret’), a swanky spot from the team behind local favourite St. Pauls Apothek. At Gedulgt there are drinks that foam and fume, and hipsters sit around marble tables on Arne Jacobsen chairs. The masterstroke is the American Beauty, a floral cocktail made with Nordic gin and yuzu, and topped with rose petals. At bare-bricked Great Coffee, bearded baristas serve just that – great coffee. There are also freshly roasted coffee beans and curious-looking brewing equipment to bag.
A BITON THE SIDE – Aarhus is also 2017’s Cultural Capital of Europe. Head to the industrial waterfront to find Dokkl, home to Scandinavia’s largest public library. Across town, Olafur Eliasson’s rain bow-coloured rooftop walkway is at ARoS Aarhus Art Museum, which will host the city’s first Triennial in April.
Although located closer to Poland, Sweden and Germany, Bornholm is emphatically Danish, with woods out of a Hans Christian Andersen story, a castle worthy of Hamlet and a growing reputation for New Nordic food.
The pioneer is Kadeau, a restaurant where foraged ingredients become high-concept dishes such as oysters with hemp wrapped in a kale leaf. If you’ve space left, book a seaside table at elegant Le Port or try heartier food, such as cured herrings, at Nordbornholms Rogeri, a traditional smokehouse.
Denmark’s cool – you know that. But what of life beyond Copenhagen? Well, head to the canal town of Aarhus – the country’s second largest city and a place currently buzzing. It’s youthful -16 per cent of the population of 330,000 are students – and an alluring combination of architecture, art and brilliant Nordic food. Make sure to grab a free city bike to check out ARoS and Moesgaard museums, with foodie pit stops at Frederikshoj, Nordisk Spisehus, Kahler Villa Dining, Substans and Restaurant Domestic. Then crash (figuratively) at Hotel Oasia.
You may never have heard of Aarhus, but to the Danes it’s their country’s beloved second city. A place of youthful bohemianism and sentimental attachment to a bygone way of life. And now – thanks to a groundswell of artists and entrepreneurs and a sprinkling of Michelin stars – it’s become Europe’s Next Hot Underground Grown Up Scruffy place to be.
On the train ride west from Copenhagen, the Danish countryside turns spare and narrow, like a rubber band being stretched tight, waiting for release. Fields shrink to green stripes, broken by white farmhouses. Blink and there’s water out the windows, the causeway bridge humming tensely underneath. Denmark, by reputation, is the southern soul of Scandinavia: generous, gregarious, and courtly. But to venture from the capital is to feel the landscape pulling you northward, toward its empty coastline and the tightening subarctic sky. Here’s where the Vikings set sail, more than a millennium ago. There’s where Hans Christian Andersen was born. Let the rubber band loose, and it will land in Aarhus, Denmark’s second city, which is less than a quarter the size of Copenhagen. If the capital is the heart of Danish culture, Aarhus—youthful, restless—is its whirring mind.
Who comes to Aarhus? Everyone, if you’re a Dane. “So many people know, or have lived in, Aarhus at some point in their lives,” the mystery novelist Elsebeth Egholm said over coffee one afternoon at a sidewalk table in the Latin Quarter, the city’s oldest district. “They connect it with youth, with a boyfriend or a girlfriend they used to visit, with a grandmother.”
A short walk from the Latin Quarter is Aarhus University, one of Scandinavia’s top research institutions. Its main quad (an idyll of grassy hills, shade trees, and an enormous pond where ducklings frolic) sends a stream of students cycling into town all day, infusing the city with warm Nordic charm. For decades, Aarhus—pronounced oh-hoos, like a fond lament—was known as Denmark’s training town: the place you’d find your sea legs before moving to the capital. More recently, though, it has become a destination in itself. Several of Denmark’s leading innovators have planted their headquarters on the city’s revivified waterfront.
Luxury housing has followed suit. Aarhus now has Scandinavia’s largest public library, and some of its best restaurants. (When the Michelin Guide evaluated Aarhus for the first time, in 2015, the city came away with a startling three stars and two Bib Gourmand distinctions.) All at once, Denmark’s best and brightest aren’t graduating from Aarhus but into it.
For such people, the city’s appeal reaches both backward and forward: a nostalgic bond to what Aarhus meant during their younger years and a drive toward its eclectic international future. Egholm’s best-known fictional creation, Dicte Svendsen, an Aarhus newspaper reporter who’s an accidental detective on the side, was recently adapted into a popular Danish procedural; it arrived in America via Netflix in 2014, cresting our national passion for Scandinavian TV. Dicte was filmed entirely in Aarhus, and, like the novels on which it is based, it’s a quirky love letter to an even quirkier town. “A lot of people have a sentimental view of this city, and that’s why I wanted to set my Dicte books here,” Egholm explained, with a wan smile. “I often get the compliment not so much that the books are good but that it’s great they’re set in Aarhus.”
Just because Noma, Copenhagen’s temple of new Nordic cuisine, is temporarily shutting its doors doesn’t mean you need to hold off on visiting this famously foodie city. Chef René Redzepi has inspired an army of Noma alumni to wage their own revolution: Christian Puglisi earned a Michelin star at his restaurant Relae, staking his reputation on a vegetable-heavy tasting menu (sample dish: celeriac, black olive and seaweed salad).
Meanwhile, Samuel Nutter and Victor Wägman take a brave, nose-to-tail approach at their two-story bistro Bror, serving lamb in four courses, beginning with a thinly sliced eye. Their menu also includes a starter of fried bull’s testicle. Matt Orlando – Noma’s first chef de cuisine – opened his thrilling Amass in 2013. At Taller, Karlos Ponte cooks his native Venezuelan cuisine with Nordic ingredients and techniques. Likewise, frustrated by the lack of good Mexican food in Copenhagen, Rosio Sanchez opened her own taco stand at the Torvehallerne market a few months later, importing dry corn for her tortillas directly from Oaxaca. And that’s just dinner. Here’s how to dive into the rest of this great Danish city – Mickey Rapkin.
Once a dodgy working-class stretch, Nørrebro has been reborn as a playground for bearded artisans and the backdrop to a perfectly curated afternoon. Start with lunch at Manfreds – there’s a disco ball in the wine cellar, but the beef tartare is where the party’s at. Then caffeinate at the Coffee Collective (an award-winning roaster) before browsing Proper Attire Requested, a secondhand men’s shop threads. Stop in for a spell at Crate Beer & Vinyl – which offers exactly that.
The Cocktail Bar.
Duck and Cover is a place bartenders come to drink. Mix master Kasper Riewe Henriksen left the venerable Ruby in 2012 to open this dark-wood bar where he’s constantly tinkering with the menu. Here’s a tip: Drink whatever gin cocktail this cat puts in front of you.
In Copenhagen, even dudes riding bicycles look cool. Perhaps that’s because they shop at Han Kjøbenhavn, your first stop for monochromatic swaters, drop-crotch pants in hybrid fabrics and suave overcoats. The sunglasses (roughly $150) and other accessories – such as the perfect leather-bound laptop case – are classic. You can even buy a Lego set of the United Nations for the kid (or for the kid in you).
The Nimb is minimalist Danish-design porn. Installed in a Moorish palace dating from 1909, the hotel’s 17 rooms overlook Copenhagen’s historic amusement park, Tivoli Gardens. Ride a wooden roller coaster. Sip a negroni beside a roaring fire.
Kick it old-school at Barberen I Vognmagergade, a men-only barbershop where the straight-razor shave is as slick as the top-shelf whiskey owner Jonas Shiran Larsen pours in the afternoon.
The Worthy Tourist Trap.
Take a 20-minute ride to the Louisiana Museum of Modern Art, a celebration of Andy Warhol and Max Ernst (among others) set within parklike grounds. Enjoy lunch outside and stare at Sweden across the sound.
On a rooftop farm in an industrial stretch of town, a husband-and-wife team opened Stedsans, a restaurant with just two seatings a night. If you can snag a table, you’ll be rewarded with carrots topped with brown butter hollandaise, perfect wine pairings and Instagram bragging rights.